VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL has never been my favorite part of the Christian tradition. It’s not nearly as bad as, say, the Inquisition, but I would gladly trade it for a week of minor persecutions. Yet somehow this summer I found myself spending five perfectly good evenings dressed in a purple T-shirt with a cartoon crocodile on the front, to show I was a “Crocodile Dock” crew leader.
And I was a diligent leader for my little clump of 7- to 10-year-olds. I stood in front of the big flat screen and sang and danced my way through the Christian pop songs, complete with hand motions. I attentively watched the videos in which a giant chipmunk quoted scripture to prove that God would save him from sinking in quicksand. I even, with a straight face, led the scripted group discussions that sought religious meaning in games that were really variations on childhood classics such as “freeze tag” and “Simon says.”
Until this summer, I’d been away from Vacation Bible School for a while. It was, of course, part of the drill in my Southern Baptist childhood, but I only have three distinct VBS memories. There was the morning before Bible school had started when I joined a group of boys who were trying to scale the walls of our church. I fell from a windowsill and broke my arm. I also clearly remember the craft project that had us assemble a portrait of a chicken by gluing colored corn kernels to a piece of construction paper. Mine was a complete disaster. I also recall that one year all the “older” kids (I was 9 or 10) were herded into the sanctuary where a visiting evangelist terrified us with the threat of hell.